“The authors suggest that one reason why [using plus size bodies in advertisements is bad] being larger-bodied may appear to be contagious is that as it is seen as more socially permissible, individuals exhibit lower motivation to engage in healthy behaviors and consume greater portions of unhealthy food.” – AMA 

A study has been released recently linking the use of plus size bodies in advertisements to a rise in obesity. In short, a series of five experiments were done among a group of 168 women that showed researchers that when the women saw advertising featuring plus size women, they ate more chocolate from the bowl placed in front of them and generally decided to not be healthy or happy.

These are two very large assumptions. First that 168 are representative of a population of women, and second that all plus size women are unhealthy and unhappy.

Literally dozens of studies were done on the effects of unrealistically thin body standards on girls, women and society and exactly NO CHANGES WERE MADE, one 168 woman study on body acceptance in advertising and it’s CANCEL ALL THE FAT GIRL PICTURES. It’s only even been the last few years that we’ve seen mainstream use of curvy women in advertisements outside of the Catherine’s catalogs my mom used to get in the mail, and yet, we’re able to put our finger on body acceptance as the cause of a decades long increase of obesity?

I’m looking for a phrase, let me see if I can find it….. Oh, I remember: get the fuck out of here.

Listen, studies exist. I’m sure they got the exact results they are claiming from 168 women in room in front of a bowl of chocolate (cough*stereotype*cough), but to those of you using this study to discount an entire women’s body movement, shame on you.

You don’t care that after repeated exposure to body positive advertisements, those 168 may go on to stop taking dangerous diet pills, participate in less unhealthy yo-yo dieting, and be less likely to take their own lives out of frustration, depression and body hate. You only care that once again society can justify a women’s body as less than. Which is too bad, because that study you are waving in my face also states that placing value on any one body type over another is bad. Sigh, obviously. Seriously, you guys, it’s really hard for me to even muster up the excitement to write about this, because all I want to do is shrug my shoulders and keep moving forward in this movement.

And eat a bowl of chocolate. Sike!

 “Usage of larger body types [in advertising] increases unhealthy behaviors.” wrote study authors Brent McFerran, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Beedie School of Business, and Lily Lin, Ph.D., an assistant professor at California State University.  – Shape Magazine

In short, they are saying we’ll stay fat because now we see we have clothing options. As opposed to staying overweight out of depression or self hate. Never mind that those clothing options give us the confidence to leave the house, to be with our friends, to finally feel like we’re… wait for it…. accepted.

Did it occur to the study that maybe, we aren’t only looking to plus size models as a form of equal representation in the media, but rather, as a fun tool to see how our clothes would look on our actual bodies? Because trust me, you can pin a tunic on Gisele all day, but I still won’t be confident I won’t look like a sausage in it.

Any chance we can get to fat shame, we take it. It’s really easy and fun to do on the internet. I mean, think of all the memes! People who roll their eyes at the body acceptance movement get off on these sorts of headlines, “see, I told you fatties were gross! It’s science!” So really, none of the flashy headlines or disgusting comment sections should surprise me.

But, it makes it no less disappointing that we have yet another awesome stigma to conquer in our movement to justify being happy in our bodies. Because that is what this whole thing is about, getting to a place where you don’t hate yourself anymore, which as we all should agree, is the most unhealthy of things. I have- to date- over 2000 emails saved in a folder in my inbox from both men and women thanking me for helping them feel confident and beautiful in their skin. This is not counting Facebook messages, in person meetings, tweets or any of the comments on my blogs or news articles. Just emails normal people in all sorts of bodies took moments out of their lives to write. Which made me think of the actual/tangible/hands in a bowl of chocolate effects I have seen from this body love movement, and as a result, I have decided to share with you the findings of my five year long one woman experiment.

Because of the body image movement and a push to include plus size women in advertising:

  1. I leave my house no longer worrying about being a fat girl. I feel loved, accepted and worthy as I move about society.
  2. I spend more money on self care. I am more invested in fashion and body wellness because I actually like myself.
  3. I’m more active. Prior to body acceptance, I rarely left my house and was heavily dependent on medication and emotional eating to get through my day. Now I live my life outside of my house, traveling, exploring and being generally brave all over the damn place.
  4. I still lose and gain weight, depending on various things like my emotions, stress or activity levels, but those fluctuations are normal, human, and no longer define my happiness or keep me from experiences.
  5. I am healthier, in large part because I no longer dread going to the doctor and having to step on the scale. Other contributing factors include my aforementioned increase in activity, self care and food appreciation.
  6. I am a more productive member of society. I take pride in my career, I mentor, I give talks in high schools and junior highs, I wrote a NYT Bestseller, I run a positive and empowering community of thousands of women, and I speak for those who can’t speak for themselves just yet.
  7. I am a better mother because the example I set for my children is that of confidence and pride.
  8. I am happier and have higher self esteem because I can relate to and I feel represented in society by the celebrities, models and leaders who promote body love.
  9. I feel stronger in my ability to represent myself as sexy, not as a targeted fetish, but as a mainstream sexy as fuck woman.

Know that no matter where you are in your journey, your body today is valued and socially acceptable, no matter what size it is. It’s socially acceptable because as a person in this world, you are socially acceptable. It has nothing to do with your body, and anyone who says it does, is the truly insecure one. This study is not a set back. It isn’t even a speed bump. It’s noise around an unstoppable force of women taking charge of their happiness and self respect by demanding to be seen, acknowledged and represented. Change is happening, fuck the chocolate.

body acceptance study

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